Three years ago, in 2019, we posted a blog about the additional hazards drivers face when children go back to school for the new year. Then in early 2020, COVID hit, and children stayed home for those final months of school. When school resumed in the fall, a number of parents opted to continue to teach their children online or homeschool them. Well, it seems those days are behind us, and students are back in school in full force. Thus, we felt it would be a good time to remind us all of the Texas school bus and school zone safety rules.
When you get behind a school bus, you certainly don’t want to do something that garners you a hefty fine—or puts children at risk. Here are some of the things you need to know.
- First, since school buses can make frequent stops, don’t follow them too closely. You should always allow 3 car lengths between the bus and your vehicle. Remember, if you’re following a bus and you hit it, it’s your fault.
- When a school bus flashes its yellow lights, it’s to signal other drivers that it is about to stop to load or unload children. Slow down immediately and be prepared to stop.
- It is illegal to pass a bus that is actively loading or unloading passengers. When a school bus stops and extends its stop sign or turns on its flashing red lights, drivers in Texas are required by law to stop at least 20 feet from the bus. Vehicles are to remain stopped until all children are safely loaded or unloaded and off the street and the lights and sign are no longer activated. This applies to drivers on both sides of the road except when the roadway is separated by a physical barrier like a raised median.
- Be aware that a bus trying to merge back into traffic has the right of way.
Anyone who’s lived in Texas for awhile knows that police officers are vigilant about enforcing speed limits in school zones, and for good reason. Children are unpredictable, and the sheer volume of kids—and traffic—around school buildings before and after classes can make driving tricky. It’s critical to know the traffic laws governing school zones to not only avoid serious fines but to protect our youngest citizens as well.
- The speed limit in most Texas school zones is 20 miles per hour. Typically, these limits start 45 minutes before the beginning of school and end 30 minutes after the close of school. Be aware, however, that these speed limits can be extended for special events that occur before or after classroom hours. It’s best to drive cautiously in and around school zones even before and after regular school hours.
- Unless it’s handsfree, it’s illegal to be on your cellphone or other mobile device while driving in an active school zone. This law does not apply if you are making an emergency call.
- In some school zones, it is illegal to change lanes or pass another vehicle. At the very least, it is unsafe, so stay in your lane, even if you’re following a car or are beside a car that is going below the 20-mph speed limit.
- Crossing guards are to be obeyed at all times. If you are at an intersection with a stop light and it turns green, you must still obey the crossing guard.
- You must follow the 20-mph speed limit until you have completely cleared the school zone. Don’t start accelerating early, or you could get a ticket.
In general, now that schools are back in session, there are a few simple things you can do to avoid problems and protect our children during the school day.
- Before you ever leave the house, allow yourself a little extra time to get to your destination if you will be driving near a school when children are likely to be arriving for classes or leaving at the end of the school day.
- Take extra time to check behind you before backing out of the driveway.
- Though you should always drive defensively, be extra vigilant at these times when there is more pedestrian and vehicular traffic (including bikes) on the roads.
- Don’t forget that that there may be more inexperienced drivers behind the wheel as teenagers head back to class.
- Be sure to know and follow your child’s school’s specifically outlined drop-off and pick-up procedures.
- Obey all the school bus and school zone laws and recommendations.
Here at Accident and Injury Chiropractic, we hope that these reminders will contribute to a happy and safe school year for the children and families in our communities.